Governor signs executive order to turn cameras on
by Benjamin Fang
Aug 27, 2018 | 3313 views | 0 0 comments | 136 136 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the school year just a week away, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the city have found a way to turn speed cameras back on in school zones.

On Monday, Cuomo signed an executive order to allow the city to access Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records and identify speeding drivers who will be given summonses.

Meanwhile, the City Council votes on Wednesday to reinstate the 140 cameras that were turned off in school zones, just in time for the first day of school.

But the move will only be temporary. According to reports, the executive order has to be extended every month. That’s why street safety advocates are continuing to urge the State Senate to renew and expand the speed camera program.

Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, two organizations that have championed the speed cameras as life-saving measures, have been using their radar guns in different boroughs to prove that cars have been speeding since the cameras were turned off earlier this month.

Last Thursday, they made their case in front of the Razi School in Woodside, which is situated along Queens Boulevard, a historically dangerous roadway for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes that made this street safer,” said Juan Restrepo, a Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives. “But speed cameras are still part of the street safety measures that made this street as safe as it is now.”

Imani Moore, dean of the Razi School, said during the summer the school received phone calls from drivers who were ticketed for speeding. They asked Moore if school was session in the summer.

“So they know that when school is not in session, they have the opportunity to fly down Queens Boulevard,” she said.

Moore said over the years, a number of students have been injured crossing Queens Boulevard to get to school, which is why the cameras work as an effective deterrent.

“Crossing Queens Boulevard is not an easy task, even for an adult,” she said. “Those cameras are a way of saving lives. They save children and adults as well.”

Advocates joined Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on Queens Boulevard to track the speeds of passing cars. While most travelled under the 25 miles per hour speed limit, several flew by at higher speeds.

When the speed camera program was active, any car that went 36 miles per hour or more was ticketed.

Van Bramer called the State Senate’s inaction, particularly Republicans who lead the chamber, an absolute disgrace.

He said he would prefer to expand the program not only to 150 additional school zones as current legislation proposes, but to all New York City school zones. He would also want them turned on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The fact that it has gone away is absolutely endangering the welfare and lives of young people all over the city,” Van Bramer said. “The fact that we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of violations — not ticketed, of course — since the cameras went dormant just illustrates the problem that we have.”

When the cameras were turned on, city transportation officials saw a 63 percent reduction in speeding. More than 80 percent of motorists who received a speeding violation never got a second one.

“We know that this program was never about raising money, it was never about playing a game of ‘gotcha.’ It was about changing the culture,” Van Bramer said. “It was about making sure everyone who gets behind a several-ton vehicle is more thoughtful, more conservative, more cautious in their driving after having received a ticket.”

When asked what the city could do in lieu of state inaction to curb speeding as the school year nears, Van Bramer said he’s confident the city will do everything it can to make sure children are safe.

“There are plenty of other tools in the toolbox in terms of traffic calming and achieving Vision Zero,” he said. “But there is no substitute for this.”
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